MLT Blog

Maximize the Investment: Five Key Factors of Successful DEI Training Programs

By: Trevor Teason 

Trevor Teason is the Senior Director for Insights at MLT. He focuses on leveraging data to determine what works in advancing racial equity. Prior to joining MLT, Trevor led People Strategy & Analytics teams at Capital One and helped build the People Analytics practice at EY.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an ever-growing and evolving industry. In 2016, U.S. companies spent an estimated $8 billion a year on diversity training. This was well before the surge in DEI efforts following Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s murders in 2020. 

Now, companies face increased pressure from multiple stakeholders, including customers, employees, and investors, to commit to action. Many organizations lean on DEI Training Programs to help them mobilize and bring rigor to their DEI practices. DEI has been elevated to a key business practice for many companies. This is an exciting change; yet too many organizations fail to implement effective, meaningful programs.

Despite increased costs and efforts, most DEI training programs don’t actually strengthen diversity within organizations. In fact, a broad-based study showed the opposite- mandatory diversity training was more likely to reduce diversity in organizations than increase it. With little to no return on the multi-billion dollar investments, professionals of color are still marginalized in workspaces lacking DEI at their core. 

Why do so many Diversity Training Programs fail to move the needle?

Many DEI development programs focus on changing mindsets rather than behaviors. Mindsets are more ingrained and therefore are harder to change. For example, learning to hold inclusive meetings where all perspectives are heard and valued is much easier than changing fundamental beliefs that lead to meetings dominated by a few voices.

There is also no broad, one-size fits all approach to DEI- each organization has plenty of their own unique challenges. Most diversity training programs focus on symptoms, neglecting the root causes behind issues specific to organizations.

Finally, almost all training programs, related to DEI or not, fail to reinforce their teachings. Consistent training and conversation around diversity is what leads to long-lasting behavior change and development.

So, what works? – Five Qualities of Successful Diversity Training Programs

Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) has spent the last 20 years addressing DEI in the corporate world. During that time, we’ve observed five key differentiating factors when it comes to DEI training and development programs. To expand further, we developed an in-depth whitepaper on Designing Effective Diversity Training Programs. In April 2023, we also hosted an interactive session. MLT’s community members gained more insight on how to maximize their DEI investments. 

Read the whitepaper now

Here are some highlights from the latest whitepaper and session. Successful diversity training programs: 

  • Understand and address the root causes behind persistent challenges, not just the symptoms. Effective training programs determine what is driving the symptom of the organization’s problems and challenges.
  • Have robust measurement and accountability plans. Effective training programs think about how the organization will define and measure success or impact. 
  • Are integrated into core talent practices. Effective training programs stretch beyond specific training events. They make DEI a part of the organization’s DNA. 
  • Use positive methods to encourage winning behaviors. Effective training programs call people in with kindness and empathy instead of calling them out for bad behavior. 
  • Reinforce training with ongoing support, systems & process modifications, and visibility. Effective training programs understand sustained behavior change comes with consistent reinforcement, check-ins, and support. 

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